Football and baseball are inarguably some of the most popular American sports, loved all over the USA and even around the world. Both sports have a rich history marked by memorable moments and important accomplishments in the sports industry.
While football can be considered the game of spirit, baseball is the game of grace. Although both have acquired a special place in the hearts of Americans, fans still pull at their hair fighting over whose favorite is more popular.
It’s not easy to determine which game is better, no matter what the statistics and biased fans might indicate. In this article, we’ll try to compare both the sports and understand which truly is America’s favorite sport.
American football is a version of football that originated in the United States and has its roots in soccer and rugby. It is a team sport consisting of two 11-member teams. It is not just the most popular sport but even has a somewhat cultlike following in America.
It is therefore not surprising that a ridiculous 1.1 million high school students and 70,000 college students play football annually, making college football one of its most popular forms.
The first college match was played between the teams of Rutgers and Princeton on November 6, 1869. Four colleges – Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Princeton formed the Intercollegiate Football Association.
The other is the professional league, played in the National Football League (NFL) which is the most popular American football league.
National Football League (NFL)
The much-celebrated NFL is the highest professional level of American football in the world and one of the wealthiest professional sports leagues.
It was established in 1920 as the American Professional Football Association.
It is comprised of 32 teams playing over 17 weeks in exciting match-ups culminating in one big championship: the Super Bowl.
Most Popular Football Teams
While all teams have their intense fandoms in their respective cities or states, some are more known worldwide for their star players or multiple championships.
In the east, we have the New England Patriots, six-time NFL champions in their 11 Super Bowl appearances. Founded in 1959, their ‘golden period’ started in 2001 under head coach Bill Belichick with quarterback Tom Brady, who has since gone to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Pittsburg Steelers is the seventh oldest team in the NFL. It also has six Super Bowls wins, tied with the Patriots, whose success has helped to make them one of the most popular teams. Their fanbase goes by the name ‘Steeler Nation.’
Dallas and Denver
From Texas comes the Dallas Cowboys, established in 1960, joining the NFL as an expansion team. The Cowboys boast five Super Bowl victories, eight Super Bowl appearances, and the NFL record for most consecutive stadium sell-outs.
The Colorado team, the Denver Broncos, had humble beginnings, with no winning seasons till 1973 and five Super Bowl losses. However, it’s creating history now with eight AFC Championships, three Super Bowl Championships, and eight primary members enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
If there is one game that can sweep American sports fans off their feet nearly as much as football (if not more), then it’s got to be baseball.
Baseball is a bat-and-ball sport played by two teams who take turns batting and fielding. So many people in the United States have engaged in baseball as children that it is sometimes dubbed as ‘the national pastime.’
Baseball originated before the American Civil War as a simple game called ‘Rounders.’ Rules were drawn up and in 1845, the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club was set up. The game was still informal until the first professional baseball league was set up in 1871.
By the early 1900s, major eastern American cities had their own professional teams.
Major League Baseball (MLB)
Major League Baseball (MLB), established in 1903, is the most popular American professional baseball organization and also the oldest professional sports league in the US.
MLB’s journey has been adventurous, with famous rivalries, the dead-ball era, the Black Sox Scandal, and the terrible Mitchell Report controversy.
MLB, with 30 passionate teams and wild matches, boasts the highest total-season attendance of any sports league in the world.
Most Popular Baseball Teams
Established in 1901 as the Baltimore Orioles (no relation to the current team), the team was purchased after two years and moved to New York to become the New York Highlanders, and eventually the New York Yankees.
The New York Yankees are the top-performing team of all time. The Yankees have several MLB records in its bag including 27 World Series Championships and 40 American League pennants.
Based in Missouri, the St. Louis Cardinals are just behind the Yankees with 11 World Series Championships and 19 National Pennants. The Cardinals have hoisted several players into the Baseball Hall of Fame. They are a member club of the NL Central Division.
The Giants and the Red Sox
With 8 World Series Championships and 23 National League pennants, the San Francisco Giants are not only among the oldest but also one of the most successful baseball teams. Moreover, the Giants have more wins than any major American sports team.
The Boston Red Sox, based in Massachusetts, competes from the AL East Division. One of their major records apart from conventional victories (including nine World Series Championships) has been consecutive sell-outs on 820 home games.
Both football and baseball have a loyal fanbase and thus, in terms of quality of participation, we can say both games are at par. However, as statistically proven, football far exceeds baseball when it comes to popularity with American sports fans.
A survey conducted by Gallup revealed that about 37% of American sports fans voted football as their favorite sport. On the other hand, baseball only had a meager 9% of the votes as the favorite sport.
In several other surveys, the difference between the popularity of the two games might be small, but baseball never exceeds football. However, tables turn when it comes to total attendance during live games of both sports.
Since baseball has a much longer season, it attracts more crowds to the ballpark, as much as 68.5 million spectators in total across the league. Football seasons are short and thus the games only pull a crowd of up to 17 million across the league.
Comparison of Other Factors
Although the NFL league and its teams turn a solid profit, the players are not particularly well paid. In 2018, the average salary for an NFL player was around $2.1 million per year while it was almost twice that, $4.5 million, for MLB players.
Football is known to have more parity among teams as the team budgets are fixed and schedules are limited (with larger playoffs).
On the other hand, MLB has no limit on team budgets, thus teams with greater budgets obviously have an advantage. Moreover, only a small number of teams make it to the playoffs. When it comes to fairness, the rules and regulations of baseball are considered less fair.
Why American Football Triumphs
Even though many would argue that baseball is a better game, there are many reasons which lead to the increased popularity of football.
While conducting more games per season might help baseball pull more crowd, it doesn’t work well with its popularity. Baseball has more than 100 games per season which makes it hard for the fans to follow up with each game.
On the other hand, football has fewer games per season and of shorter duration. Thus, football is more popular because of the build-up it creates after each game.
Everyone knows Americans love action and spirit on the field and football satiates this desire. Baseball is a slow game, leaning more towards tactical finesse while football is a tough, fast-paced sport. This contributes significantly to the popularity of football among sports fans.
Early Exposure and Fantasy Leagues
College Football acts like an early training phase for future football players. But more importantly, it provides pro-football stars good exposure in their early career.
It adds to the popularity of their team when they join NFL later on. Since college baseball isn’t as popular, MLB doesn’t get this advantage.
Although baseball also has a fantasy league, the one for football is much more popular. Fantasy leagues require you to pay attention to the game to be able to predict the results. Thus, it adds significantly to the watch time of football games as compared to baseball.
No one sport can be considered superior based solely on the factor of popularity. While football might be the more watched sport, baseball has a loyal niche following.
Looking at various other aspects, we can say both sports compete neck-and-neck to earn a spot in the top favorites. The competition will go on but true fans care more about the spirit of each game than its popularity.